I’ve decided to scrap my current work-in-progress. At least I think I have. It’s been a difficult decision because while I enjoy the story, I’m questioning the why behind writing it. The truth is that my heart is not into it any more but I don’t know why,
Or maybe I do.
When I began the novel currently called “Ulterior Motives” I wanted to tell a carefree love story in which a Black woman who was overweight, on the spectrum, and awkward to find love with someone others would covet. Because why can’t we be sexy, right?
But as I was writing, the story began to feel inauthentic because what I wanted to tell was an epic love story between two normal people who meet when they are young and stupid. These two hurt each other and cause emotional destruction for those around them (because youth) only to learn lessons that may or may not keep them apart.
For me, writing has always been about creating safe spaces in which I could exist, but in doing so my stories seem to lose their fire because it’s painful to write characters like me- characters who struggle and are vulnerable and fallible.
What good are stories written by those of us considered on the margins of society if they are not reflective of our struggles? Furthermore, what good is a Happily-Ever-After if the outcome is predictable to the point of negating the struggles the couple faces? There are so many romance novels in which the characters break up and the breakup feels fake- like a forced split without any real meat.
In Love Story Cheat Sheet/Obligatory Scenes, by Shawn Coyne writes about the Lovers Breakup Scene:
This scene is the one where many writers pull their punches.
It’s the equivalent to mystery/crime/thriller writers who don’t go to the end of the line with their “perfect crime” scenarios. Amateur crime writers bake in solutions to their crimes so that they know how their protagonist/hero will come to figure out the criminal before they begin writing. That’s a big mistake. The big work to explore before you write a crime story is to create the perfect crime. And then challenge yourself to mastermind a way to solve it. You must wear both hats. And the antagonist’s hat in the crime story is even more important than the protagonist’s.
Similarly, the tendency for love story writers is to avoid breaking up the lovers too definitively. They want to leave some wiggle room for them to get back together. They do this so that they’ll know weeks or months before they write the scene how they’ll solve the inevitable “Lovers Reunite Scene.” Which is the final resolution of a courtship drama no matter if the lovers commit or part. More on that later.
That’s a mistake (leaving the easy possibility of them getting back together) because you’ll inevitably telegraph how they’ll reconcile to the reader long before it happens. Remember that the “how they reconcile” is the fuel that gets us to the ending payoff. And readers hate it when they figure out how your ending payoff will payoff.
The trick to this scene is to remember that the lovers need to have an internal change before they’ll be capable of coming back together.Love Story Cheat Sheet/Obligatory Scenes, by Shawn Coyne
His words struct a nerve. Last year I read over one-hundred romance novels and I noticed that many authors do in fact take the easy way out. The idea that love always comes full-circle has become a necessary for Happily Ever After, but what if doesn’t? What if the internal change- the shift in view results in the realization that a relationship not with that person?
Can Happily-Ever-After exist if the lovers don’t get together at all?